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Everything is Bigger in Texas

Read Noah Volin’s reflection on NFTY Convnention in Dallas, Texas, February 15-18, 2019.

Wow! It was no lie when it was said that NFTY Convention 2019 would be the Ultimate NFTY Event™. With the help of NFTY-MAR (Mid Atlantic Region) and my congregation, I was able to Be Apart of Something Big™. I will never forget my time in Dallas with my Jewish friends. NFTY Convention was like a NFTY-MAR event times nineteen, with each region adding its own flair and excitement to the experience. The weekend was set up as a totally personalized involvement, from opt-in programs to chosen off-sites.

I felt most apart of the NFTY community when we were in services. We all knew the tunes even though members live across all of North America. Singing prayers and songs led by Alan Goodis in the giant room with over 1000 Jewish teens and adult leaders was the most impactful part of NFTY Convention. In certain songs, some regions had their own twist to it, representing where they came from. NFTY-MAR of course started many mosh pits during services throughout the weekend. So many people would join in! I’m glad NFTY-MAR became known for propeller hats and mosh pits.

I met so many new people and I feel honored to call them my friends. During every program, I met someone new and we would talk about our home regions and anything and everything. I have friends from NFTY-NE, SoCal, NW, SW, SAR, STR, NEL, OV, and of course NFTY-TOR. So many regions had their merchandise and I’m proud to be able to now wear a NFTY-SAR shirt that I got from the Shuk (market). These new friendships will continue to grow, and I already can’t wait to see my new friends again.

We stayed at the Gaylord Texan Hotel and Convention Center. This place was huge! In the center of the hotel, there was a giant garden with trails, ponds with fish, boulders, fountains, and even a bull named Hank. In the giant atrium we all enjoyed many caffeinated beverages and awesome conversations. I even got to make and snack on some guacamole with people from NFTY-NW. They got the ingredients from a local farmers market and we shared it with everyone. I was able to go explore the beautiful area with some close friends. We found some awesome spots and took some pictures. This adventure was one of my favorite parts.

For my chosen offsite, I went to the Dallas Holocaust Museum. We learned about the events on April 19th, 1943. Three events happened on that day, such as three men who stopped a train full of Jews and helped them escape. There was an in-depth exhibit on Anne Frank and her life. Close to the museum was a giant store full of Texan gear; cowboy hats and boots, posters, t-shirts and way more. I now have a matching “Everything is bigger in Texas shirt” with two new friends, that I am way too excited to own.

The programs planned covered a vast variety of topics such as “How to engage teens in your Jewish community” to “Finding Judaism in your Spotify playlist”. I went to a few very informative workshops on marketing and communications led by the head of marketing for NFTY, David Billotti. I went to an awesome T’fillah breakout program called Tot Shabbat. We sang a ton of Jewish songs for kids and were part of a Shabbat story with lots of audience participation. I learned so much from all the programs that I will be taking back to my TYG; DRTY (Durham Regional Temple Youth).

On Saturday night for Big Fun, we all went to a place with bowling, arcade games, pool, and mini golf. I ran around with my friends and had the time of my life! After a rousing bowling game with my new friends who were surprisingly skilled at the sport, my friend and I played almost every arcade game available. In the mini golf area, I couldn’t stop laughing at how bad we were. We ran around with glow sticks barely hitting the ball. We ended the night with a game of pool, which was pretty evenly matched between us novices.

To bring NFTY Convention to an end, we had key speakers from the March for Our Lives David Hogg and Matt Deitsch talk about how to make change in our communities regarding social justice and gun violence. We learned how our age doesn’t keep us from making change. The last hurrah of NFTY Convention 2019 was a Dan Nichols concert. Other than the Jewish songs, you would have no idea it was a ballroom in a convention center. The lights were flashing and people were jumping up and down, trying to get to the front row. Dan Nichols was quite a character on stage! He loved how we knew the words and rocked out with us.

I swear NFTY Convention was the best thing I have ever done. I made new connections, learned how to improve my community, reflected on important topics, and had the most fun of my life, so far. Every moment was incredible, from morning Zumba and yoga, to Havdalah with our neighboring regions, and so much more. I already can’t wait for my next NFTY event, and will never forget my time in Dallas with more than 1000 of the most amazing people I have ever met.